One of the fundamental issues in functional understanding of clinical interventions is to appreciate the proper unit and level of analysis of a behavioral problem. In the case of PTSD it can be tempting to see the problem as residing in the relationship between the patient and the traumatic stressor. In fact, because there is considerable variability in how patients respond to stressors, we must infer that there are other factors that affect course and outcome. From a behavior analytic perspective it is important to appreciate that examining behavior in isolation misses the point. The only meaningful unit of analysis is the behavior in context. By "context" we mean that not only must the patient's responses to the characteristics of the stressor be considered, but they must be considered in light of the patient's history prior to the stressor, along with how the people, institutions, and agencies that are part of the patient's environment purposefully or inadvertently reinforce (or punish) the patient's responses. The behavior in context is the proper unit of analysis; to study one part of the context independently of all others will lose the meaning of the behavior. A behavior is only interpretable when considered in the context of its antecedents and consequences.
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